Friday, October 18, 2013

Part 4 of a new installment, exclusive to This Crazy Train, "Meet the Deckers"

Editor's note: If you have had issues while aboard a Double Decker bus, drop me a line

Read Parts 1 and 2 and 3
Photo from GO Transit's official Facebook page

Special to This Crazy Train

Ain't No Business Like GO Business!
by Ali Gator (not his real name)

The 15:07 Niagara Falls to Burlington bus – #8102, a double-decker (DD) – rolled into St. Catharines almost ten minutes behind schedule.  Not bad, I thought, considering it was the Friday afternoon of the Thanksgiving weekend; passenger volumes would be high.

As I tapped on with my Presto card, the driver explained she was late because the bus had lost power on the QEW.  I had no sooner settled into my seat when I was summoned back to the front of the bus.  Apparently, the Presto POS terminal thought we were still in The Falls; the cost of my trip would be inflated.  Our driver tried to reverse my tap three times – all attempts were unsuccessful.  Since time was becoming critical, I was instructed to tap off.  As I walked back to my seat, I bowed my head and recited, “Our Father who art in heaven …” You know, praying for patience and all that jazz.

We resumed our trip and were cruising nicely along the QEW approaching Grimsby, when I heard the engine die.  Our driver skillfully maneuvered the bus to the shoulder and brought the vehicle to a halt.  

Here we are dead on the side of the highway:

After a brief radio conversation with the Hamilton supervisor, our driver apologized for the delay and advised us we would proceed to Grimsby where we would switch to another bus.

The rescue bus slipped in behind us within minutes of us arriving at the Grimsby Park & Ride.  This is because GO Transit operates “shadow buses”, i.e. empty buses, that are in close proximity to DDs, because the new $800K+ buses are so prone to failure (CJ says, "This is true. I've seen this happen in Oshawa.").

Weren’t we led to believe the new double-decker buses from Alexander Dennis Ltd. were supposed to save us money?  I volunteered to help move the suitcases of a retired couple from Japan who were in Canada vacationing.  The transfer took but a few minutes, and we were on our way again.

The rescue bus – #2260, a standard coach from MCI – was not the quickest in the fleet; it was a sluggish 12-speed.  Those of you not familiar with this model of bus, it does have an automatic transmission, but the herky-jerky motion gives one the impression the driver is a neophyte learning to drive a stick-shift.

Here we are lurching along in “Old Faithful”.

By the time we pulled into the north bus loop at Burlington GO station, the 16:42 train, which we were scheduled to meet, had departed.  Not a problem you’re thinking, because the Minister of Transportation promised a train every 30 minutes on the Lakeshore line.  Wrong!  After 16:42 at Burlington, the next train departure is at 17:37 – a 55 minute wait.  To make things worse, that train was delayed (because of a switch problem near Aldershot station) to 17:42, and then to 17:45; it finally arrived at 18:00.

The trip proceeded without incident until after we left Exhibition station, whereupon our CSA announced that the train would be out of service upon arrival at Union station.  Passengers needing to continue their trip had to descend into the bowls of the GO Concourse to wait for the next eastbound train, which had a 19:17 departure.  I finally arrived in Pickering at 19:55.  I was over 90 minutes late for a dinner engagement that had been planned for some time.  My missus was not amused!

It occurred to me on Saturday morning that no e-mail alert had been issued for the delayed bus trip, even though Customer Relations had assured me on September 8 that “we will continue to work with our Operations team to ensure all delays are reported”.  Obviously, someone is not working hard enough to keep that promise.

I realized, too, that I should get a refund for the train portion of my trip.  There is no service guarantee for bus travel regardless of the cause of the delay; bus passengers are treated as second class customers by GO Transit (CJ says, "More like third-class...").  I checked first whether the trip was eligible for a refund and was presented with the following: 

What do you mean you’re “not sure yet”?  I checked again on the evening of Thursday, October 17 and I was presented with the same status.

Are you kidding me?

Undaunted, I submitted my refund request which was acknowledged as follows:

I received the adjudicator’s decision the following evening, and it said the following:

What do you mean “does not correspond to your PRESTO card’s trip history”?  Let’s take a look at the transactions for October 11, shall we?  Here they are in reverse chronological order:

We can clearly see the following:
·         03:36 PM – Tap on for bus trip.  Remember, the Presto POS had reset itself to the start of trip location when the bus lost power after leaving The Falls.
·         03:38 PM – Tap off for bus trip as instructed by the driver.
·         05:10 PM – Tap on for train trip.  My card has a default trip between Pickering and Burlington, so there is no tap off for the train trip.

For this stellar service and others like it, GO Transit is the 2013 large system winner of the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).  Read all of GO Transit’s self-adulation on their web site.  I’m beginning to wonder if  “favours” were paid in order to receive this award!

Remember the couple from Japan who were here on vacation?  I received a lovely e-mail from them saying they arrived home safely and they thanked me for my assistance through all the turmoil on Friday afternoon.  Knowing that Japan has one of the best public transportation systems in the world, you can’t imagine how ashamed and embarrassed I was trying to explain GO Transit’s level of service.

There you have it folks!  Another award winning performance by the cast who proves time and again that there’s no business like GO business!


Anonymous said...

For the delay of the train- was it supposed to go past union on to pickering and they cancelled it at Union? If it was delayed by 8 minutes (17:37-17:45)and was ending at union (and ending at union a refund wouldn't apply)

Anonymous said...

Oh...and also you need you tap on with 15min of the departure time for the refund to work. or else you will need to call them to get it done manually.

Ali said...

@Anonymous: Per the combined LSE/LSW schedule, trip 728 starts at Aldershot @ 17:31, arrives at Union @ 18:41, continues east from Union @ 18:43, and arrives in Pickering @ 19:21. I've taken this trip before, because of similar circumstances, i.e bad scheduling for the bus connection with the 16:42 train at Burlington.

Per the article, the train didn't arrive at Burlington until 18:00 - 23 minutes late. The trip eligibility query showed that trip to Union qualified for a refund.

A GO Train leapfrogged us at Danforth. I assume it was the cancelled 728 that had to make it to Oshawa in time for its scheduled trip westward.

Ali said...

@Anonymous: I thought GO Transit might play the 15-minute card, but the adjudicator's reply didn't say that. I didn't have time to keep running between the platform and the Presto machines, since I was looking after the retired couple from Japan. They were more important to me than stupid Metrolinx rules. Whether I tapped on 1 minute after the 16:42 departed or 1 minute before the 17:37 arrived, there was only one train to catch. I'm glad it played out this way, if for no other reason than to illustrate how out of touch the Metrolinx Ivory Tower is with what happens on the front lines.